NASSAU, BAHAMAS – While the travel advisory released by the United States (U.S.) Department of State on Monday caught the Ministry of Tourism by surprise, tourism minister Dionisio D’Aguilar told Eyewitness News Online that the “exaggerated release” will have no effect on tourist arrivals from the U.S.
D’Aguilar said he found the release to be inaccurate and outdated.
“There are one or two clauses in there that are very troubling for Bahamians because in our minds there’s an exaggeration,” he said.
“For example, they say ‘violent crimes such as burglaries, armed robberies and sexual assaults are common; even during the day and in tourist areas,’ I completely disagree with that.
“In 2018, serious crimes like murder was down 25 per cent, armed robbery was down 18 per cent, attempted robbery was down 19 per cent and shop breaking was down 23 per cent; but yet our travel advisory remains at the same level.”
He continued, “I think it will have no effect because they released this same travel advisory last year and in that same year our stopover visitors went up over 17 per cent, so clearly it’s not having any effect.”
D’Aguilar noted that the travel advisory had been minimally tweaked since it was last released in January 2018.
He suggested that the US may need to give the advisory a second look.
“They probably think that the status quo has remained, but I disagree and the crime statistics for 2018 were vastly improved and if you look at what was issued in January 2018 and the one issued in 2019; you’d see that it is almost the same with very little changed,” he said.
The contrast between the reality on the ground and the information laid out in the travel advisory left room for critics to question whether constant dialogue was present between both countries to ensure that everyone was on the same page.
D’Aguilar insisted that there has been open dialogue.
“I initiated this year meetings between my ministry and the U.S. Embassy to meet quarterly to discuss any issues that might have been there; so, dialogue has commenced,” he said.
“Maybe this involves my speaking to the leaders over at the U.S. Embassy, as well as national security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [to address this].”
And while the majority of the claims made in yesterday’s issued travel advisory was brushed off as untruths, the tourism minister noted that there are certain things that his ministry will seek to improve to enhance the tourist experience.
“There is obviously room for improvement as it relates to the regulation of boats, jet skis and other watercraft,” he admitted.
“The ministry will be working with the Ministry of Transport to ensure that those issues are tightened up.”
Meanwhile, despite the latest travel advisory issued by the United States, two islands in The Bahamas were recently listed as “the best in the Caribbean for romance”.
Topping the list was Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos and coming in at number nine was Cat Island.
A panel of leisure and travel experts and journalists partnered with the 10 best editors to pick the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.